Another Walk With A Wider Harness

I had another walk with

On Thursday afternoon i got a phone call from the guide dog mobility instructor i saw on Wednesday. Well one of them anyway. I missed the call as i was in Derry for the day, and by the time i got back from that i didn’t think it would be appropriate to call.

So on Friday morning, I phoned her back. I was kind of nervous, as i wasn’t sure what to expect. When i talked to the instructor, she told me that she wanted to try me out with the wider harness, or the “Side fitting” harness. I had a go briefly with it on Wednesday, but it was only for about 5 minutes. So she was going to come out today (Monday).

I sort of thought after hanging up the phone “i wonder is this a good thing” lol and then was thinking “what if it is a match” or “What if i wasn’t ready for the dog if it wasn’t a match” and stuff like that. As the weekkend went on, i started to be a bit more excited but there was still that little voice that said “you’re not ready” and that. I sent a couple of emails to my rehab worker basically telling him all my worries and that, and he reassured me a bit which was good.

So today came. I woke up bright and early as the instructor was coming at about half 10. There was going to be another instructor there, as the first instructor is just training, and needs someone to observe her.

So at about 11 o’clock, they arrived. They first got all the stuff out of the car, like the harness and stuff. They brought a shorter lead with them today as i thought the other lead was rather awkward. This lead wasn’t as awkward. I just kind of looped it between by two fingers, as they said that i would have better control if the dog started misbehaving or anything. We were doing a route that i knew, which was the route to college, well part of it anyway.

There was a car parked on the kerb slightly along, so we had to go off the kerb. I just told Ushi to “find the kerb” and then told her “forward” and then “Find the step again once she had gotten past it.

There is like a little side path that you can use to get round a corner on our route, or else you can just go around the outside, and round some cars. The dog took me down this path, which was okay. I just had never done that way with the cane.

There is another bit of the route where there is grass on one side of the path. Ushi started speeding up lol. Apparently dogs do this if they know there is grass, and if it is an open space, as they think they will get a “free run” which is where they can run off lead and harness. I just had to get her to slow down. She wasn’t going massively fast, but still, she needed to slow down. I just gave the “steady” command, which is where you kind of move the harness up and down slowly, and say “steady” but kind of drag it out.

Once i said that, she slowed down which was good.

When we crossed the road, what would usually happen with the cane would be that you would kind of go straight on, and then you would find the wall and then turn left. Apparently you can just turn left as soon as you cross the road, as it is a low kerb, and you don’t need to find the shore line, as this would mean that the dog was walking you into stuff, which would kind of defeat the purpose lol. I thought that was cool that you could just turn left. I found out that you don’t do the “left behind” when you are on an up kerb, as you could fall off it lol. Instead, you use the “Left in front” which is where you turn your left foot but have your right foot straight, and then you point with your right arm across your body and say “left”. It is similar to the “right” command, only using opposite feet. I found this out the other day, but forgot to mention it.

I found out that when you kind of turn a corner you have to tell the dog to “find the kerb” as apparently the dog doesn’t make the decision, but you do, so you aren’t meant to make the dog actually turn the corner. Or go right round it.

We just went a small way along, and then went back past a local park. I had never really been this way with the cane though.

So we just crossed at one of our kerbs, instead of going right. At this point, i found out what the “guiding” road was. I had heard it on Wednesday, but didn’t fully understand it. Apparently, this is a really good tool for orientation. It is basically the traffic flow. It should either be on the left or the right. If it is behind you, then the dog has probably wondered up the wrong street.

I asked what would happen if you said the wrong direction, and apparently you can just retrace your steps, and once you are going the right direction again, you can give the dog loads of praise, as it has done what you wanted it to. You would just find the kerb, and then think about your “guiding road” and then turn the direction you wanted to go.

It went without a hitch after that. When we turned round, there is a road on to our street, and the dog knew that it was near the house, so she was going to the left alot, which would mean that she wouldn’t really be going across the road. So one of the instructors stood sort of in the middle of the road where straight would be, and i pointed to straight, but Ushi was being stubborn and just wouldn’t go. I had to give her a massive “straight!” and jerk the harness until she would actually go straight. She got there eventually. Then it was a “find the bus” to get to the car.

We stood talking for about 10 minutes while i stroked and praised Ushi lots. I told them that i hadn’t learnt any more routes apart from the route to and from college, and they were grand with that. They said that i wasn’t to worry about that, and that they would teach me more routes if i needed them.

They also said that the dog would be able to sleep in my room at home. It was up to me where i wanted the dog to sleep. I just wanted to make sure that was okay though before allowing the dog to sleep in the room. I asked them about bonding and they said that they will give me advice on how to bond, and asked if i played with the pet dog, but i said that i didn’t really bother with her, as she is kind of boisterous. They were cool with that too, and said that also feeding and that would help with the bond which was good. On class they will give us toys and stuff too. They will tell me what they are like and that, when they bring the dog out for a matching visit.

They also reminded me again that it is hard work, but basically it is hard for everyone.

They basically are going to be attached to the dog all the time at first if something awful was to happen. Thank god for that!!!

After that, they left. Oh, and new doggies are apparently coming over from Scotland in September, so who kknows!!!!!!!

I am glad that i got to use the wider harness. It wasn’t a bad thing after all!!! I found it much better than the first harness we used.

I am also glad about the route and that, as i was worried that they would be like “you should know more than that” but they are grand. They want me to ask as many questions as i need to, as they want it to work.

I am also glad that for the residential class, i will have the same instructor every day, which is good.

I hope that it does go well when i do get the match, and that i am able to focus and remember all the commands, and that i will be able to concintrate and focus. Yes i can probably switch off a bit, but probably only when i know a route really really really well.

Oh, by the way i got a picture on the other post. I hope it worked.

Sorry for the length of these posts, but i would rather that i got everything in. Plus it will hopefully help someone and it is also a record for me. I wish there was something else that i could do to prepare myself, but i don’t think there is anything else i can do to prepare lol.

Another Guide Dog Walk

At the hotel
I had the
Wonderful Dog walk?
Well today i had another one.

I was orriginally going up to an eye matter meeting today, which i had arranged for my rehab worker to take me to. We would be doing a route in Belfast anyway. On Monday he sent me an email telling me what was going to happen and what time he would be out to get me. He also said that one of the GDMI’s (guide dog mobility instructors) was going through my area anyway, and that they could let me walk with a dog if wanted. I was so excited!!! Had to re read the email a couple of times just to make sure i wasnt just imagining it lol.

Well we first of all did the route down to the college as usual. It went without a hitch which was good. I think i really know the route now.

Anyway about 10 minutes after that, we met two GDMIs. Well i had both met them at the hotel lol. Anyway i went with one of the instructors who is in her training still first. We just walked around the college car park with the
Short Handle
Just to remind me of the commands and such. I was amazed that i would remember the foot positions since it had been a while since i had done them. I was actually quite firm with the corrections today!!! Considering that was the part that i needed the most work on. I then went with the first instructor after we walked back to the car as she noticed that my speed had increased, so wanted to see if she was right, and it had actually increased. I didn’t notice that it had, but apparently it has!!! I asked if that was a good thing, and she said that it was grand. She was pleased with my voice too which was also good.

After coming back to the car again, they got the dog out of the back. She was called Ushi. I’m not sure how you spell it, but you pronounce it ooshey. She was a dog that was just in training. Well she was about halfway through her advanced traning. She was gorgious. She was just a little nervous at some points though, and wanted to make sure that you really wanted her to go forward. So i think she tested out the old voice a bit which was good.

Instead of going back from the college, we decided to do a longer route, just to get Ushey used to working, and to get her used to new people. I didn’t realy kknow the route we did, but i still found i was able to trust the dog.

Anyway getting ahead of myself lol.

We just walked with the trainee instructor attached by another lead while i had the other lead and the harness. Ushey was a bit fast for me, so i had to keep telling her to “Steady”. It was hard to get the tention through the harness handle as it was quite long. There was one part of the route where there was a tree on the kerb, and there wasn’t room for me and her to get round it. The kerb was quite rounded, so it felt weird to get into the “Number two position” which is the forward position, as it didn’t feel straight. The instructors explained that it was because of the shape of the kerb. So for us to get round the obsticle, the dog had to step down onto the road, and then go along a bit and step up. I just gave her the “Forward” and then told her “Over” which was pointing to your left side, and then “Find the kerb”. She then got me back up on the kerb, so i could just walk along straight on again.

At one point the instructor took my lead just to give the dog a bit more confidence. I just had the harness. I found it easier than having the lead, as the lead with the harness felt kind of awkward. The instructor said that the lead was a bit longer than the lead that we would get as guide dog owners, so that was why it was so awkward.

At one point, i thought the dog was going to “Spend”. It took me onto some grass and just stopped. I sort of panicked, but the instructor said that it was because there was a kerb, and she wasn’t sure where to go.

About halfway through the route, they changed the handle of the harness, as i was finding it hard to get the tention still. They said it would be easier with a shorter handle though which was good. I found it was far easier with that shorter handle lol.

We decided to go for a coffee in a coffee shop after a while, just to give the dog a break, and to update my paperwork that was done on the guide dog assessment. This was just to make sure that nothing had changed, and to give the trainee GDMI a bit of practice at doing this sort of thing. We couldn’t find it at first, as my rehab worker had went to his car to get something. So we spent a bit of time going around a couple more streets before we discovered where the coffee shop was. It meant that i got to do a bit more work with the doggie which was good.

I learnt that when you are sitting down with the dog, like on a bench or in a restaurant or what ever, that you take the harness off the dog. You still have the lead on the dog, which they said that you could wrap around your finger, or put it under your leg to make sure the dog wasn’t sniffing or anything. I didn’t think you would do that. I would have thought that when the harness was off, then the dog would kind of go mad, and think it could do what it wanted when off harness, but apparently the dog will still know that it has to behave. That’s probably why you need to be the boss lol, so that the dog doesn’t decide to behave badly.

Ushey lay quietly while we updated my paperwork, and chatted. Before we left the coffee shop, i got to hold the dog on her lead just to make sure she wouldn’t run off, while the instructors went to the little girls’ room. She still just lay there which was good. The instructor said that some dogs will be a bit more stubborn though.

We decided to go back to the college after that. There is an alley wway going up to the college, which me and my rehab worker have affectionately called “Suicide alley”. This is because it isn’t really a straight line, and there are loads of obsticles and stuff there. Plus, there are alot of delivery lorries there and all sometimes. I think the instructor nearly died when we said that that was what we called it lol.

I would have thought that it would have been quite complicated to get the dog to go up this alley, as you would have to “find the kerb”, and then sort of turn round and go up it that way. It’s hard to explain, though. But we just told the dog to “Find the way”. I’m not sure if we used the “Over” command, but I just pointed to the left, and said “find the way”. She was going to go into a shop that was just beside it though lol. I just told her straight on though, and then “Find the way”. She got it this time. The instructors had said that I would sort of have to get her to stay in and find the way. This would be done by moving your right hand to the right and saying “In” and “find the way”. I would then have to get her to find the kerb, then tell her straight on, and then to find the kerb again. I think it was something like that anyway. This was because there was no real straight line the dog could follow.

So i told Ushey to “find the way” and to stay “in”, all prepared for the complicated way i was told. She just found her own straight line and went straight up, and got me up on the kerb!!! I thought that was brilliant!!! She got lots of praise there.

The rest of the way i just told her straight on and then got her to find the kerb for crossing. When she crossed, She automatically turned the corner which was good. When we got to our last road crossing on the way back to the college, we sort of had to do it differently. There is like a little island thingie in the middle of the crossing, which is because there are like two car parks. So i had to tell Ushey to “Find the step”, because it wasn’t really a kerb. When we crossed that, she was grand and just went straight, until i told her “over” and “find the bus” which is what you say to a guide dog for any vehicle that you want to get into, or find.

Once we got to the car, I gave Ushey a hell of alot of praise. Even if she was a bit hessitant at first to do what i told her. I asked loads of questions at the car, like how you would get the dog to find steps, and how it would do this? Apparently when going up steps, the dog will put its two front paws up on the first step, so that you could find it. Going down, it would wait at the top step. They said that because the dogs balance would be affected going down steps, that you would hold the lead on its own, and not the harness. This means that you are in control, and if something happens where you or the dog stumble, then you both won’t end up in a heap at the bottom of the steps. That was interesting to know. I also found out that if a car drives out in front of you when you are crossing the road, that the dog will stop, until it is safe to cross again.

Before the instructors left, they let me try a wider harness handle. This is a “side fitting” handle, whereas the first one was a “Top fitting” one. I walked up and down the car park, and immediately noticed how good it was. I was able to feel the tension much better. I was going to say “Find the way” but was thinking about how much i could feel her move, and was like “find the bum!” Lol i quickly corrected that though lol. It was much easier to get the tension too.

We headed back to the car again after that. To get the dog to find something, the instructors said that i could use “Where is it?” to get the dog to find it and incourage it.

It was another great walk. I found that i could kind of switch off when working with her. Well not switch off, but i didn’t have to concentrate as much as what i would have had to do if using the cane.

That little voice at the back of my mind was saying that i maybe wasn’t ready for a dog, well not ready but was i ready for the work, but i know i am. I think that was just me starting to worry again.

I hope to god that it won’t be too long now until i get the dog.

I’m so glad they let me work with her. I was surprised at my confidence!!!

*I would have posted this yesterday, but i lost half of it, as JAWS went into “Overwrite” mode. I think that was all i wanted to write.

Oh by the way, here is the picture of Ooshey.

This is a picture of Ooshey looking right at the camera